2019-20 NBA Team Preview Series: Cleveland Cavaliers
The 2019-2020 NBA season starts October 22nd and to get you ready for tip-off, Off the Glass is previewing all 30 teams. Today we look at the Cleveland Cavaliers.
2018-2019 Record: 19-63, 5th in the Central Division.
Season Recap: It was a season to forget in Cleveland. After losing LeBron James to the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency, the Cavs claimed that they would still compete in the East, and eschew a complete teardown. But after losing All-Star Kevin Love to injury in their fourth game, the Cavs abruptly fired championship-winning coach Ty Lue after game six, and the tank was on. J.R. Smith was told to stay away, and key pieces of championship contenders were flipped for picks and trade chips. Collin Sexton started slow, before showing that he may have a role in the Association long-term, but an audition of failed lottery picks by other teams didn’t show much promise. Even tying for the best odds of the #1 pick didn’t help, as ‘Not-Tryin’ for Zion’ yielded just the 5th pick in the draft, and the promise of a long road back to contention.
Key Losses: JR Smith, SG; Nik Stauskas, SG; David Nwaba, SG; Cameron Payne, PG
Key Additions: Darius Garland, G; Kevin Porter Jr., G; Dylan Windler, F; John Beilein Head Coach
Preview: Let the rebuild begin. The Cavaliers made three picks in the first round of the 2019 NBA Draft, and after hiring noted talent-developer Beilein to lead the team, Cleveland is starting from the ground up. The biggest question is fit, as Garland, the highest of the picks at #5 overall, seems to overlap a great deal with last year’s #8 selection Sexton, but Beilein often played two ball-handlers together in the college ranks, so observers both in-and-outside of the organization are curious to see how the first-time professional head coach translates.
The Cavs have more familiar names on their roster than you might suspect, but many are there more for their contracts than their skill set, as five (!) sport expiring deals in excess of $9M -- it’s fair to expect that the 15-man roster that starts the season will not be the one that completes it. Though the Cavs aren’t known for their patience with coaches, they claim to be in it for the long haul with Beilein, so expect plenty of chances for their first and second year players to show how they might fit together in a more promising future for the team. Cleveland is hosting the All-Star game in 2022 -- they’d like a representative playing on the home court.
Player to Watch: Darius Garland, G
Team X-Factor: Development
Worst Case Scenario: Garland and Sexton don’t fit, and the Cavs have blown one of their two lottery picks at a crucial time. At the same time, veterans playing for their next contracts make the Cavs a little too good, and they end up drafting somewhere in the mid-lottery, unlikely to find a franchise difference-maker.
Best Case Scenario: Sexton and Garland show flashes of being a new version of Lillard-McCollum, and fellow rookies Porter Jr. and Windler indicate similar long-term potential. The wide-open nature of the title chase this year prompts a few teams to go all-in, and the Cavs’ mix of expiring veterans proves extremely desirable on the trade market. The Cavs load up on future picks while maintaining a home at the bottom of the standings, picking near the top of the 2020 draft, but with a brighter future than present.
Actual 2019-2020 Prediction: 24-58, 5th in the Central Division